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Teaching Tips 108

My Valentine
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My Valentine

Valentine's Day is on the 14th so this week's Tip brings together some ideas & links to help you out with those Valentine's lessons.

A Love Story lesson plan
Love & money are in the air Valentine's Day lesson plan
Chocolate lesson plan

- Students design a series of tips for lovers on Valentine's Day.

- Short mystery stories, with a touch of romance connected to Valentine's Day can be found at

- Debate on Valentine's day - commercialism v romance.

- Who to send a Valentine's card to - personal/the famous.

- The above could be extended to students deciding what presents the famous people give each other, where they go to eat, what they eat, what they say to each other (reported speech) etc. Or the game 'Consequences' - name of famous woman (met) name of famous male (at) place ..(he said to her).. (& she said to him) . (& the consequence was) .- each piece of information is written on a paper which is folded over each time obscuring all that came before so that at the end when all is written it is unfolded & read out - lots of fun.

- Anti-Valentine's Day campaign - discuss reasons & plan a campaign.

- Romantic films - students make a list of the top ten romantic films e.g.. Love Story, Casablanca, An Affair To Remember, The Piano, Brief Encounter, DR Zhivago, Now Voyager, Four Weddings & A Funeral, Gone With The Wind, When Harry Met Sally ...

- Lexical set: like, fancy, love at first sight, chat up, ask out, go out with, get on well, fall/be in love, 'go steady', live together, get engaged, get married, have children, go off, split up, get divorced ..rather heterosexual so change to suit.

- Heart to Heart/Lonely Hearts ads, the more diverse the ads the better - first decide which sex is advertising for which sex in each - they could put a M-F code next to each ad & then compare ideas before general feedback - Then onto some scan reading; you ask a question e.g. who is looking for a red head & students quickly look & when found answer put hand in air & when half group got hands up ask one for the answer & locate for those that didn't find it. Could do this with about ten questions. Could then get them to see if any of the advertisers could be matched up or do the students like the sound of any of them - write their own ads or for others in the group.....

- Language of physical & character description could be related to Blind Dates which could be in the form of a letter describing self, where to meet, etc..

- Language of chatting up - could come from a tape of mini conversations & then pull out the different language being used >> practice with mini-roleplays. Useful & lots of fun for a youngish group.

- Speed dating - check out the Tip at:

- 'Online ads: the lovers' lost and found' - Reuters article that would make an interesting reading for higher levels - extend into love at first sight - happened etc..?:

- The BBC has some very good material on 'love':

- Language of invitations.....could combine with a What's On Guide to use for scan reading & the language of preferences before going onto invitation role-plays, maybe on the phone which then involves telephone language.

- Romeo & Juliet - resources:

- Role-play about parental disapproval - Mum, Dad, brother & girl who is going out with older boy. Dad is dead against it, Mum too but is more delicate, brother sides with sister & girl determined to carry on seeing boyfriend - do battle!

- Marriage: vocab - bride, groom, vows, reception etc.

- Discussions on: British v students country wedding traditions compare/civil v church weddings/sex before marriage/alternative weddings/gay weddings/debate: live together v marriage/4 Weddings & A Funeral - the reception speech is very exploitable & enjoyable for higher levels - could lead on to a writing task.

- Problem page - there are many ways to use these e.g.. give out problem & students write answers/ give half students problems & other half advice & they write the opposite & after the written problem is read out to see if it matches they read out new written advice/ match up half a dozen short letters with the advice given leading on to a discussion of whether the advice given was the appropriate & if not any better.. role-plays from these: writer with friend, couple with marriage guidance counselor. Advice language e.g..: It might be an idea to. Why don't you .?, etc.

- Hypothetical relationship situations - 2nd conditional practice - What would you do if ..all related to romance.

- The 'Couples' activity in 'Discussions That Work' by Penny Ur (CUP) works very well (well worth checking out if you haven't already!).

- Divorce - discussion on associated topics e.g.. stay together for sake of children v split up - Life after marriage / sex before marriage/life as a single person.

- Love poems: eg: Love's Philosophy - by Shelley

The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever,
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one another's being mingle;--
Why not I with thine?

See the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower would be forgiven,
If it disdain'd its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;--
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?

This would lend itself to being cut up, every line or every two lines, & the students put into a logical order. A glossary of synonyms for the difficult old-fashioned words would be necessary. And then on to a comparison with the original & a discussion of the content. A follow up could be writing a few more pairs of nature-related lines.

- Love quotes - eg:
'I love you - those three words have my life in them.' by Alexandrea to Nicholas III
'The courses of true love never did run smooth.' by William Shakespeare
'There is only one happiness in life: to love and be loved.' by George Sand

- All You Need Is - a song, songs & more songs. For a huge list of romantic song lyrics:


Here's a text about the origins of Valentine's Day:

5th Century, Rome

Mid February was traditionally the time of the Lupercian festival, an ode to the God of fertility and a celebration of sensual pleasure, a time to meet and court a prospective mate. In AD 496, Pope Gelasius outlawed the pagan festival. But he was clever to replace it with a similar celebration, although one deemed morally suitable. He needed a "lovers" saint to replace the pagan deity Lupercus.

The martyred Bishop Valentine was chosen as the patron saint of the new festival.

Saint Valentine had been beheaded for helping young lovers marry against the wishes of the mad emperor Claudius. Before execution, Valentine himself had fallen in love with his jailer's daughter. He signed his final note to her, "From Your Valentine", a phrase that has lasted through the centuries.

Pope Gelasius didn't get everything he wanted. The pagan festival died out, it is true, but he had further hoped people would emulate the lives of saints. Instead they latched onto the more romantic aspect of Saint Valentine's religious life. While not immediately as popular as the more passionate pagan festival, eventually the concept of celebrating true love became known as Valentine's Day.

Ideas on using this text:

- as a straightforward dictation task - read through first, students listen. Dictate each tone unit, repeating if the students want. Read again for all to check. Give out the text & students self-correct.

- elicit if anyone knows the origins of Valentine's Day. Then give out choices for students to discuss & choose possible stories. e.g. Valentine's Day comes from the romantic character in Shakespeare's play 'Much Ado About Valentine' ...

- put key words on the board & students try to predict the story, then read to verify.

- cut up the text into the paragraphs & students put in order.

- give out the first two paragraphs cut up, line by line, & students order the text. Then use the third paragraph as a dictogloss activity - read the text at normal speed & students take notes - the stressed words. Then together they reconstruct the paragraph from their notes. It's not necessary for it to be the same as the text so long as it is a coherent paragraph that fits with the preceding two paragraphs. Then give out the last paragraph to read & see if their own paragraphs fit in.

- could follow up with the letter from Valentine to his lover before he was beheaded (!) - could be fun.

- discussion on any current festivals they would like to replace - with what?


A few links to follow up:

Valentine's Day page at Wikipedia:'s_Day
Love at Wikipedia:
Lots of links from the Kids Domain:
History Channel Valentine history:
Valentine's Day clip art:
Yahooligans links page:
Virtual chocolate site:
Cadbury's Chocolates site:
Hershey's site:
Exploring chocolate:
How chocolate works:

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All aboard

This week is 'International Coaching Week'. Here's a definition of Coaching from the Coaching Federation:

'Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Coaches help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives.

Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs. They seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client; they believe the client is naturally creative and resourceful. The coach's job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has.'

We play many roles in the classroom; classroom manager, monitor, provider of language, corrector, provider of materials, source of information on target English speaking countries, peer....among many. One of the roles is certainly that of coach & although we do already carry out a lot of the functions of a coach, we can certainly learn a lot from coaching theory & training.

Have a look at a couple of excerpts from Coaching Core Competencies at the Coach Federation site:

Active Listening - Ability to focus completely on what the client is saying and is not saying, to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client's desires, and to support client self-expression
1. Attends to the client and the client's agenda, and not to the coach's agenda for the client,
2. Hears the client's concerns, goals, values and beliefs about what is and is not possible,
3. Distinguishes between the words, the tone of voice, and the body language,
4. Summarizes, paraphrases, reiterates, mirrors back what client has said to ensure clarity and understanding,
5. Encourages, accepts, explores and reinforces the client's expression of feelings, perceptions, concerns, beliefs, suggestions, etc.,
6. Integrates and builds on client's ideas and suggestions,
7. "Bottom-lines" or understands the essence of the client's communication and helps the client get there rather than engaging in long descriptive stories,
8. Allows the client to vent or "clear" the situation without judgment or attachment in order to move on to next steps.

Planning and Goal Setting - Ability to develop and maintain an effective coaching plan with the client
1. Consolidates collected information and establishes a coaching plan and development goals with the client that address concerns and major areas for learning and development,
2. Creates a plan with results that are attainable, measurable, specific and have target dates,
3. Makes plan adjustments as warranted by the coaching process and by changes in the situation,
4. Helps the client identify and access different resources for learning (e.g., books, other professionals),
5. Identifies and targets early successes that are important to the client.


Life coaching is usually carried out on a one-to-one basis & it is easy to see comparisons with our one-to-one classes. Have a careful look at the above & decide which could be used in our context, both with groups & one-to-one. I would suggest that nearly all are applicable.

Go to the link above & run through the points to see if you can gain any insight into what you do every day. Try to see your role as more of a coach than that of the traditional teacher. And you never know, with the skills you have developed, life coaching might be the next step for you.

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Do you remember when everyone was saying 'wicked' to mean that something was 'very good'. And now you hear lots of 'awesome' for the same. I quite liked the idea of everything being wicked, but I'm not too keen on 'awesome'. Could it be that users of 'awesome' have never met something that really might be described as 'awesome' & this lack is being compensated for by overuse of the word? Or could it be that we expect everything to be big, over the top & immediate, & this expectation is translated into the language we use? Have a look at the following new-ish words:

Match the following words & their definitions:


1. swagger jacker
2. Bond year
3. shop naked
4. don't be dog
5. retro shopping
6. re-gift
7. treeware
8. podestrian
9. blogorrhea
10 unprotected sleep
11. dap
12. ladyprimer

Definitions & examples:

a. iPod wearer/user
- See the white earphones, she's got to be a podestrian.
b. A phrase used when someone thinks another person is being stingy or unfair.
- Jimmy: Hey man, can I burrow two bucks for the bus? Alex: Nup Jimmy: Don't be dog!
c. A girl who wears an excessive amount of makeup.
- She's such a ladyprimer.
d. To repackage or rewrap a gift one receives and give it to someone else.
- Elaine gave Tim a label-maker for Christmas and he re-gifted it to Jerry!
e. Any year that ends in 007, such as 1007 or 2007.
f. Turning off your alarm clock and immediately going back to sleep; risking not waking up for a job, class, or other daily task.
- I'm lucky that i didn't miss my final exam after having 30 minutes of unprotected sleep.
g. To shop for items online; to buy things from an online store.
- I think I'm going to save myself a lot of holiday shopping hassles and just shop naked.
h. To write a blog entry just for the sake of posting an entry, not because you have done anything interesting today.
- I couldn't really think of anything good to blog about, so my last post was real blogorrhea.
i. Documents made of paper, like an anablog, in contrast to electronic documents.
- Print out the treeware and we can send it via snail mail.
j. The knocking of fists together as a greeting, or form of respect.
- He gave me a dap when we greeted.
k. Someone who steals syle, flow, lyrics, ideas and passes them off as there own.
- Yo Cam and Jay your both a couple of swagger jackers.
l. To compare prices for an item after you've already purchased it.
- Jim couldn't resist buying that 2001 Harley as soon as he saw it. After a little retro shopping, he was thrilled to realize he also got a great deal on it.

Answers at the end

Taken from:
US slang dictionary

There is an interview from the BBC with the founder of, celebrating the addition of its one millionth word definition.

So what do you do to keep up with new language, especially if you live abroad? Periodic trips home can help. It's hard enough for me, rarely going back to the UK, but for the non-native English teacher it must be very difficult to keep up with English language change & use. As always, the internet can help & here are a few links, among many, on language change & slang:

& the second series:

'Keep Your English Up To Date from the BBC - 'The English language is permanently evolving and developing. New words and expressions are coined and existing words change their meaning as society, culture and technology progress. Professor David Crystal is one of the world's foremost experts on language. He has recorded 26 short talks on some of these words and expressions that have recently made it into the language, if not necessarily into dictionaries. Each unit contains the text of the talk by Professor Crystal. You can also listen to the talk and download the transcript, audio and a lesson plan for teachers. The lesson plan contains teacher's notes, worksheets for students as well as a key to the answers.'

Here's the tapescript for the word 'Bless':

There's quite a range of explanations using 'bless' in English, all originally from the religious use of the word. 'Bless you!' somebody says after a sneeze. 'Ah! Bless my soul!' - a rather older fashioned one. 'Bless you!'

An interesting one is, 'Bless your heart!' used mainly by adults talking down - 'Ah! Bless your heart!' - to a child.

And in the 1990s, this remarkable use, the verb by itself, usually preceeded by the interjection, 'Ah!' - 'Ah! Bless!' - that sort of use. Notice the tone of voice there.

I heard it when a little child had a cat snuggling up to her and the parent said, 'Ah! Bless!' And then the child hurt her finger, 'Ah! Bless!' People at the zoo, looking at penguins, 'Ah! Bless! Isn't it sweet!'

Of course, when you get a usage like that it can get ironic very quickly. A politician now in parliament complains of harsh treatment and somebody says, 'Ah! Bless! Isn't it sad that he's so upset!' Or somebody's really trying to do something but not succeeding, 'Ah! Bless!' once again.

It's a general expression of indulgent sympathy - 'Isn't that sweet?' - always with that distinctive tone of voice, always a hint of talking down.
Never, never, never, use it to your boss, not if you want to keep your job!
Language change page at Wikipedia.
Wikipedia's page on 'Slang', together with lots of links.
'International English from a British viewpoint.'
English slang and colloquialisms used in the United Kingdom
Stock market slang.
Skateboarding slang.
Irish slang.
Collins Word Exchange.

As we try to keep up with new language use through the internet, trips to English-speaking countries & finding recently arrived native speakers, we also need to encourage an interest in our students to find out about how their English-speaking peers are talking.
Recommend different websites to your students. You could recommend specific videos on & & if you don't have the use of the internet in class, the students view at home & discuss & clarify in the next class.

A nice idea for the teenage group is to set them the task of coming up with a new 'cool' word each week. This word is then used as much as possible in class during that week. Set the ball rolling & provide words for the first few weeks.

Answers to the matching task:


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